By Julie Bromilow – CAT Education
If you read my ‘Get your Oats’ blog in a fever of excitement, you will be wondering how we got on with our cereal tour of mid Wales….
Myself, CAT biology wizard Grace Crabb, and student placement volunteer Wendy Williams who has been researching low carbon food solutions for CAT, joined forces with Jane Powell from Organic Centre Wales, who had planned the itinerary, which we discussed over coffee and flapjack at the Treehouse, the famed Aberystwyth organic café.
We began with some winter wheat trials in the university fields. There were several types of wheat and barley, and many Turkish varieties. High protein wheat, favoured by modern, industrial scale bread makers, grows best in hot dry climates. High protein bread making flour began to be imported to Wales from Canada in the 19th century.
We then continued to Felin Ganol at Llanrhystud for a jaw dropping experience. Anne and Andy Parry bought this old derelict mill a few years ago, on account of the nice garden and granny annexe. Having discovered that they had inherited a water mill with all the parts still on site, they set to restoring it. It is now a working water powered organic registered flour mill, and they would like nothing more than to mill locally grown grains. At present, they are mostly using Doves Farm grains, currently imported from Kazakhstan due to a shortage of British supply.
And then on to another inspirational couple – Mike and Maggie of Mairs Bakehouse, in Carmarthenshire. By now it was bleak weather, and the bakehouse was high in the remote and drizzly beautiful moors so walking into the kitchen was a warm and cosy delight. Completely off the grid, their electricity is provided by wind, and the very efficient purpose build oven is fuelled by wood. The bakery specialises in sourdough and old yeast sponge variety breads, and Mike and Maggie run their business from a health perspective – they want to provide tasty bread that everyone can eat, no matter what their dietary requirements. The oven and large batches of loaves require round the clock commitment – fortunately, passion and commitment are not in short supply.
In terms of our project mission perhaps the most positive news was to discover that these traditionally baked loaves made at a cottage industry scale, do not require high protein imported flour. Mike and Maggie buy most of their flour from Lincolnshire, some from Anne and Andy at Llanrhystud, and are hopeful, as are we all, that there will be an opportunity to use locally grown grains in the future.